top of page

Ngā Tangata o te Marama

Rawiri Walsh

TTW has started a new series of social media posts titled “Ngā tangata o te marama’. Our goal every month is to profile a handful of awesome people doing cool stuff for the environment and highlight key environmental projects that they are involved in or passionate about.


The second person we are profiling in this series is Rawiri Walsh.

Rawiri is an ecologist with a uniquely mātauranga Māori perspective. He works in many different spaces, primarily in the restoration and protection of our birds and native plant species. Rawiri recently joined Te Tira Whakamātaki as a Kaimahi Taiao Biosecurity Lead, and we wanted to get some insight into who he is, what he does, and what inspires him to protect and safeguard te taiao.


Ko wai koe? No hea koe?

Who are you? Where are you from?

Name: Rawiri Walsh

Waka: Aotea

Iwi: Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, Ngāti Rangi, Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi, and Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga.

Hometown: Rural Manawatū

Favourite food: Ice Cream

Hobbies: Hunting

Rawiri 5.jpg

He aha tāu mahi?

What do you do?

I do all kinds of work. Primarily, my paid mahi is for The Capital Kiwi Project, where I do iwi liaison work, check traps, and monitor kiwi health. I also do some work through Taranaki Catchment Communities, where I do a bit of trapping advocacy and innovative restoration work using our native plant species.

In addition to these two roles, I am also a trustee for Taranaki Kiwi Trust, where I have a more virtual presence thanks to Zoom and have a more hands-on role with Karo Busters, who do weed plant control out on Mātiu, Mokopuna and Makaro Islands, in the Pōneke harbour. I am also actively interested in playing middleman for some of our critically endangered plant species by moving them from nurseries to marae restoration planting sites. More recently, I agreed to do some part-time work with Te Tira Whakamātaki as a Kaimahi Taiao Biosecurity Lead.

Kōrero mai mō te taiao

Talk to me about the environment

I've lived in 8 countries overseas, predominately making wine in Australia, France, the U.S.A., Canada, Austria and Hungary, but I also taught English in South Korea and pretended to be a professional athlete in Thailand. Having travelled a lot, I was pretty saddened by the shifting baselines that people have overseas where they are well accustomed to a degraded taiao. I don't want anyone here (Aotearoa New Zealand) to be broken-hearted into thinking that everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows, but I also don't want them to roll over and accept anything other than the best we can do, be that in the ngāhere, on farm, or in our waterways.

I came home to Aotearoa to do my Master's in Business Administration, thinking I would continue in the wine industry. During the strategy papers, our lecturer asked us to think about "what is winning" from a private point of view.


This led me to realise that I wouldn't ever be satisfied making even the best bottle of red and my focus had already swung towards being hands on in protecting our taiao.


Being an extroverted person, I've never shied away from putting my hand up or asking to be involved and this has helped a lot to open doors to new experiences and skills.


I got involved in pest control because it is a direct and immediate way to protect our taonga. A friend who I collected native seeds with worked for Predator Free Wellington and suggested I apply for a role when it came up. So, I went from having caught a few possums as a kid to deep diving on rat neophobia and all the other aspects of Predator Free 2050.

One thing that continues to inspire my mahi is how isolated areas of pest removal from islands and now areas like Miramar have shown how quickly our taiao, after over a century of damage, can bounce back. Wellington used to marvel when someone saw a tūī, and now there are regular flyovers by kākā, kākāriki, and kārearea. It's also a great way for URI (Māori descendants) to get out on whenua that we may otherwise not have access to or reason to visit.

Rawiri 6.jpg
Rawiri 4_edited.jpg

Kōrero mai mō mātauranga Māori e te taiao

Talk to me about Māori knowledge from the environment

Māori as a whole are currently less active in the environmental space than we should be and want to be. This is for a number of reasons, such as pathways to careers. Most lifelong kaimahi (workers) in the taiao space have begun their careers with DOC, and for many people, this is a less desirable option. Another avenue is through volunteering, which again works against most Māori as it requires a surplus of time and resources to be able to participate. However, if we are to thrive as Māori, then we need to be uniquely Māori, and our taiao is a major aspect of that. It's in our reo, our mōteatea (chant) and waiata (song). I love pointing out a manu call and then being able to help someone identify it through a waiata they already know.

Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au

Mātauranga is integral. If we were working solely with a European species, in a European environment, surrounded by European plants, then we wouldn't have an issue as we would be in Europe. But here in Aotearoa, we work with introduced species and their interactions within this environment. Patete (Schefflera digitata) is an absolute favourite of possums, but unlike other rākau, they do not eat the green leaf but the woody stem. They will pick the tree bare before moving on, leaving only the trees overhanging a river or cliff alive.

By 2050, I hope that we can achieve complete eradication of even just one of the big three predators (rats, stoats and possums) to take the foot off the throat of our taonga species and allow us as a nation to refocus efforts and resources. I would also like to see a shift in how the conservation sector views mahinga kai (food gathering) and why tangata whenua are an integral part of our ecology. Realistically though, we will lose quite a few species by 2050. But with that aside, I hope we can get to a point where we employ rangatahi (youth) to hunt kākā and kiwi because they are just too prolific. However, we still have a long way to go before we are there, and there is much more mahi (work) to be done.

Stay tuned for more profiles!

bottom of page